Gluten-free Vegan Almond Apple Breakfast Mug Cake




Microwaved, with crumbled pecan

Nothing is better than a leisurely breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning .  You start with your coffee or tea, then you peel some ripe fruit and contemplate what to cook while eating it.  You look at the Sunday paper or surf on your favorite food site until you feel inspired to move out of your chair and saunter into the kitchen. 

After my second cup of tea and a mango, I decided that I wanted to make something special, but not work too hard.  After all, it’s Sunday.  I found a mug cake recipe on and tweaked it.  These healthy vegan mug cakes were simple and quick to make — you can literally make them in five minutes.  And they are absolutely yummy!  


Gluten-free Almond Apple Breakfast Mug Cake

Ingredients for the Cake:

3 tbsp almond flour

3tbsp oat bran

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

4 oz no sugar added apple sauce

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


Ingredients for the topping:

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tsp brown sugar or xylitol

4 tsp apple sauce

Tiny pinch salt

4 tsp coconut oil

A pinch of corn starch

Crumbled pecans or walnuts (optional)



Grease 2 small mug or 4 small ramekins and set aside. In a small bowl, combine all cake dry ingredients, then add all cake liquid ingredients and stir. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared mugs or ramekins, then spoon the streusel evenly on top.

Either bake at 350F for 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean OR cook in the microwave until a toothpick comes out clean. (Microwave times will vary depending on wattage.)

I nuked mine in the ramekins for 70 seconds each while Audrey baked hers in the toaster oven.  We tried each other’s cake and they taste quite the same.  If you use a small mug instead of a small ramekin, you will probably need 90 seconds to 100 seconds.  Start with a shorter time and poke a toothpick in the cake to see if it’s done.  If not, add another 10 seconds or so.

If you don’t want to eat the cake directly from the mug or dish, allow it to cool completely. Then run around the sides with a knife and it should pop right out! Eat plain or topped with sugar-free icing (see note).


I enjoyed eating it piping hot right out of the ramekin.


I blended 1 cup of xylitol into powdered “sugar,” and used the powdered sugar with a tiny bit of milk to make the icing.  You can also use a little bit of plain yogurt to make a yogurt icing.

Store the powdered xylitol with a 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to prevent clumping.

“Easy Minute” Almond Muffins


I always get up early on Sunday mornings to read a little or to find an interesting breakfast recipe to make for Peter and the girls.  This morning, I brewed myself a tea and continued with my reading of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Yesterday I read only 18% of the book, and I was inspired to discard 8 trash bags of stuff.  I had a major shift of paradigm today when I read that it is not about deciding what to discard; it is about choosing what to keep. Keep only what “spark joy,” the author advised.  She also asks the reader to envision her ideal home and ideal lifestyle before beginning the process of this life-changing tidying up. 

I remember fantasizing about a clutter-free life whenever I check into an elegant hotel suite with my carefully packed suitcase.  Sometimes, I would stay for a few months with only what I had in that suitcase — each item meticulously considered — without missing anything.  Now I will contemplate all my possessions as if I were packing for a trip, except the hotel suite will be my home.

Peter got up when I was at 38% of the book, and I shared with him my vision for our house.  He looked a little dubious, but said, “Sounds great.”  He is the easiest person to live with.

In the mood to streamline, I made microwaved almond muffins for breakfast.  It is so simple and quick to make — literally just press the “easy minute” button.  They were fluffy, moist and yummy.

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Ingredients for microwaved Muffins:

1 1/3 cup almond flour

3 tbsp black molasses 

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)

1/8 tsp salt

3 large eggs

1/4 cup almond milk or milk of choice

1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional)

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Add all wet ingredients into the blender, and then add all the dry ingredients on top.  Blend until smooth.  Pour batter into rinsed ramekin 3/4 full and microwave for 1 minute.  Instead of greasing the ramekins, I just rinsed them and left them wet.  The muffins came out from the ramekins very easily after microwaving.  You may need to test your microwave and decide on the time needed to make a perfect “mug pancake.” I simply pressed “easy minute” on mine.  If you use a real mug to make these, you will probably need 90 seconds.

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Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes



Audrey’s double spatula technique

We all stayed up until well after the Auld Lang Syne was sung, and the girls got their first taste of Moscato & Mango.  We were going to sleep in until ten, but Peter and I got woken up at around 7:30am by the commotion outside our window.  Groggily Peter opened the drapery and peered out.  “Oh, two police cars and a big truck across from our driveway,” now he was up. “Oh, three, four, five police cars!” Now he was really awake.  Peter went out to find out what was going on.


Apparently two thieves were burglarizing the home construction site across the street from us, and they triggered the silent alarm.  The project manager saw them from his home on the surveillance camera and called the police.  They were still loading tools and copper pipes into their stolen truck when the police arrived and caught them red handed.

That was too much excitement too early in the morning.  And I hoped that this was not in anyway a harbinger of things to come in 2015.  New Year’s resolution: buy a set of surveillance cameras.


There we were, awaken unexpectedly by a burglary on a beautiful sunny New Year morning.  Audrey whipped up some buttermilk pancakes for us to restore our spirit.  They were not the kind I used to make with alternative flour or other substitutes.  They were made of real wheat flour. A rare treat in this household.  And they were delicious beyond words.  Well, the maple syrup was a sugar-free substitute but honestly no one could’ve known the difference.  Our favorite maple flavored syrup is Joseph’s All Natural Flavor Sugar Free Syrup.


Buttermilk Pancake Ingredients:

2 cups 100% whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons xylitol or sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups low-fat buttermilk

2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for pan

1 cup fresh blueberries


Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 2 tablespoon melted coconut oil; whisk to combine.

Pour 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake in a greased pan on medium heat. Sprinkle blueberries on the pancake before flipping.

Serve warm.

This recipe was adapted from


MyOatmeal Review + 15% Discount for YOU!

Until a few years ago, my dad used to have sweets and treats all the time. He’s an ectomorph, so he’s naturally lean and we all thought it was fine for him to stuff his face with Cantonese pineapple buns (“It’s mostly fruit!”) and Dreyer’s ice cream (“Slow churned, so half the fat, right?”) because he didn’t gain weight. But then we found out that he had high triglycerides (blood fat) and blood sugar. After that health scare, he cut down on sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat, and now his blood test results are always fine.

While he used to eat a big bowl of faux-healthy sugary cereal every morning, he now has a serving of oatmeal with fruit and nuts and a few hard-boiled egg whites on the side. He loves oatmeal. I like to combine a scoop of whey protein powder with 1/2 tsp baking powder and a serving of oat bran or oat flour (oats ground up in a coffee grinder) to make healthy protein pancakes!

Peter and Angela drinking miso soup - a little better than tempura, right?

drinking miso soup – a little better than tempura, right?

Product Review


Cheap but BORING and BLAND

We usually buy our old-fashioned oats in bulk from Costco because it’s cheap and the quality is fine. But this week was generous enough to send us a whole bunch of flavored oatmeal to try!


When our mom the oatmeal skeptic first heard of MyOatmeal, she was kind of doubtful about how good it could be – I mean, oatmeal is just oatmeal, right? A bowl of brown rice would be a really boring breakfast, so what makes oatmeal better? (Well, other than the fact that oats are a superior source of healthy fats, potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium…) The answer is that oatmeal is so easy to turn into anything you want! When I was picking out which flavors of oatmeal I wanted, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were so many delicious ways to flavor oatmeal but keep it healthy. I could have cheesecake oatmeal without giving myself a heart attack. I could have pumpkin pie oatmeal minus the Thanksgiving belly. In fact, MyOatmeal has so many ways to flavor oats that there are 22 billion different permutations – more than three distinct flavors for every person on Earth!


Okay, enough with the gushing. I’m just really excited because I love it when I find out that my mom actually likes the taste of something healthy. She absolutely loves coconut, so you bet we got a lot of coconut oatmeal. And since Audrey recently went pescetarian after watching Food Inc., I got some oatmeal with protein powder mixed in too. It all tastes great! Also, I actually really like that it comes in the mail; who doesn’t like receiving packages? Makes me feel all nostalgic.

The only reason why someone might not buy MyOatmeal is because it’s a little bit more expensive than the bulk oats at a discount warehouse club (it’s got added fruit, nuts, protein powder, spices, and more so it’s basically not even in the same category as plain old oats) but seriously, I recommend that people try it, whether they already love oats or would like to start loving them, so here’s a 15% discount code: Joan15

Happy eating!

Bribing Children + Low-Carb Cookies and Healthy Banana Bread

(If you don’t want to read our boring personal anecdotes then scroll down to the “read more” section for the recipes!)

My younger daughter Audrey is a lovely child. Let’s establish that first.


on the red carpet

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at the wax museum with her namesake

Do you believe me? Alright, let’s continue.

Angela and Audrey have been playing piano for ten years and six years, respectively. Neither of them practice much at all. I forgive Angela because I know she’s busy (or claims to be) but Audrey, on the other hand, has become obsessed with the likes of Taylor Swift and no longer enjoys playing classical piano music.


Now this is art!

Okay, you might be thinking, If she hates piano, why force her to play? What kind of crazy tiger mother are you? I’m afraid that if I try to explain people might not like me so much, so I’m going to let Angela be the contributing author today. Fire away, Angela:

Our mom wants us to play piano because she’s a sentimental old lady. When Audrey laments her forced practicing, our mother mutters something about classical music helping us get hitched someday or something. Her official reason is that she loves classical music and her piano got taken away during the Cultural Revolution and blah blah blah. But she’s always told us it’s so that the matchmaker has something good to say about us.


“We’ll bring honor to our family!” Let the record show that Angela was obviously being facetious. -Joan

Anyway, our mother wants us to practice piano all the time for several reasons, outlined above. I play when I can, but Audrey, bless your little soul, would rather curl her eyelashes (I’m kidding, Audrey, please no retributive violence!) than sit down and play some Debussy. So my mommy has taken to bribing her with treats.

She used to buy the real deal, super creamy starch-laden diabetes-causing Standard American Diet staples like Oreos and Ben & Jerry’s. But now that she’s trying to be healthier, she’s taken to coaxing Audrey with somewhat less food coma-inducing fare. Since our dad’s keeping an eye on his blood sugar, we also have to make sure he won’t get a huge spike in blood glucose when he sneaks leftovers.

Much joy. Many carbs. Much fat. Much regret.

Much joy. Many carbs. Much fat. Much regret.

Today our mother purchased a huge bag of almond flour (blanched almonds ground up into flour) and decided to make Audrey some desserts as payment for a few harried minutes of Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum. These recipes hit all the buzzwords: paleogluten free, and vegetarianif you’re into that stuff. We made some substitutions (i.e., erythritol/rebiana blend “stevia” and maltitol-sweetened sugar-free maple-flavored syrup) that probably aren’t paleo, but then again I highly doubt cavemen ever ground up coconuts and almonds and baked them into cookies and banana bread. Oh, well. (Note: if you are a paleo diet aficionado and I just offended you, please note that I am just some sarcastic teenager and it’s really not worth it to be offended.)

Okay, without further ado:

Continue reading

Reflecting on Today – and, Oatmeal


Today I had porridge made of Cellucor whey, coconut flour and oats topped with walnuts and frozen berries for breakfast at 6:00am.  I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about my husband’s stress levels.  He got called into the hospital at an ungodly hour and decided to sleep a couple of hours on the examination table before work instead of coming back home.  Stirring the porridge helped to calm me down. And eating it was heavenly.

The best thing of the day was that I actually hauled my ass to the gym in the afternoon.  I worked out on the elliptical with the music from the movie Up.  Unlike Angela, my older daughter, who listens to trashy fast music during workouts to pump her up, I like to listen to film scores or classical music.  I don’t care to chase the speed of the drums.  What I need is to chase away the boredom.  Through memories and imaginations, the most powerful mechanism against monotony.  The music brought to me longing, sadness, mystery, tension and jubilation.  I conjured up images from past, present and future as I sweated away on the machine.  Mostly, the music brought back the tender moments in life that made even the hardest time meaningful.  When I finally left the gym, I was filled with gratitude. 

Why didn’t I go in the past 10 days?  Must make myself go again tomorrow.

It was 2pm when I got home.  I quickly ate a bowl of pistachio nuts in shells before Angela came home.  She is my main food Nazi.  A little regret, but  at least they were in shells.  I only buy nuts in shells in the hope that shelling them could slow down my eating.

Will cook vegetable soup and baked tofu in miso sauce for me and the girls and will add a sautéed chicken with celery for my husband.